This article originally appeared in the Beacon’s print edition on Nov. 15.

After a weeklong trial, a nine-member jury found Kalik Aaron not guilty of attempted murder, reaching a verdict of eight to one yesterday afternoon in High Court.

Mr. Aaron was accused of being the “getaway driver” after the shooting of a fellow partygoer at Da Basement, a club below U.P.’s Cineplex, about two years ago.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kim Hollis claimed that Mr. Aaron “assisted and encouraged” the alleged gunman, St. Croix native Adrian Augustin, in shooting Dakeem Cheltenham on Oct. 29, 2016.

Mr. Cheltenham was shot several times near the club but narrowly survived.

Though Mr. Augustin was named as the shooter, on the morning of May 19, 2018, he himself was shot to death in St. Croix, according to local news reports.

During Mr. Aaron’s trial this week, a detective from St. Croix took the stand, saying that she had positively identified Mr. Augustin as the alleged gunman seen in CCTV footage from Oct. 29, 2016.

The detective also presented the court with Mr. Augustin’s death certificate.

DPP arguments

In previous court appearances and during this month’s trial, Ms. Hollis outlined the allegations against Mr. Aaron.

The court heard that CCTV surveillance footage captured him and other men arriving at U.P.’s in a “distinctive yellow truck” around 1:15 a.m. the night of the shooting. Mr. Aaron later admitted to driving the truck to and from the area, Ms. Hollis said.

Hours later, Mr. Augustin exited the building, followed by Mr. Aaron and other men, according to the Crown. But rather than leaving immediately, footage shows Mr. Aaron sitting on the steps and Mr. Augustin walking back and forth, the court heard.

“Why the delay?” Ms. Hollis asked the jury on Monday. “They’re waiting for Cheltenham.”

When Mr. Cheltenham came outside and walked by the group, Mr. Aaron got up within 30 seconds and went to the yellow truck, the DPP said. Based on the video footage, the defendant appeared to be “in a hurry” as he drove away, she added. Ms. Hollis suggested that Mr. Aaron was driving to a pre-determined meeting point to pick up Mr. Augustin after the shooting.

As Mr. Aaron went to the truck, Mr. Augustin began walking in the direction of International Motors while tucking a shirt into his back pocket, the court heard. Moments later, shots allegedly were fired.

Video footage

From a camera near International Motors, Mr. Cheltenham can be seen falling, and the alleged gunman can be seen running away in the direction of the High Court, according to the DPP.
Footage shows a t-shirt “clearly” swinging from the gunman’s back pocket, Ms. Hollis said.
Around 4:57 a.m., a yellow truck is seen arriving by the High Court, where it waited outside for about a minute before driving back towards U.P.’s again, the Crown alleged.

For several minutes, the truck continued to drive through the Road Town area — even once driving the wrong way down one street — before picking up Mr. Augustin in the area, the DPP said.

Ms. Hollis also argued on Monday that Mr. Aaron was “untruthful” about certain parts of the case until he was presented with evidence.

For one, he initially denied being on Tortola at all on the night of the shooting, the court heard. Once Mr. Aaron was shown footage of himself arriving at U.P.’s, however, he allegedly responded, “Okay.” Ms. Hollis urged the jury to examine the various “strands of evidence” that linked the case together.

Defence

Patrick Thompson, Mr. Aaron’s defence attorney, promised the jury to keep his own closing arguments on Monday under an hour. “Brevity is the soul of persuasion,” he told them.

Mr. Thompson urged jurors to be “very careful” when evaluating CCTV footage and “fitting facts to an idea that has been sold to you.”

For instance, Mr. Thompson pointed out that the footage doesn’t include any audio, and therefore investigators can only rely on visual evidence.

Some camera footage that was used as evidence also displayed slightly incorrect dates or
times, he said. And although photographs were later taken of the yellow truck in question, no fingerprints or forensic evidence were gathered from the vehicle, the court heard.

Mr. Thompson added that jurors needed to be completely satisfied about the evidence that had been presented to them.

“Don’t feel that giving a not guilty verdict is doing Mr. Aaron a favour,” he said.


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